Eleanor Hardwick is a 22-year-old multidisciplinary artist from Oxford who, despite her young age, has more photography experience than many. She has been using her camera as a tool for experimentation for more than 10 years. In this interview, she tells Lomography about the questions that move her and the themes that inspire her art, be it music, illustration, writing, or photography.
You first picked up a camera around 10 years ago. How do you feel your approach and style has changed over the years?
I’m more in intentional and in control because the gap between my desire and my taste and technical ability has lessened. I feel like I experiment and challenge myself more now, and I’m becoming more and more interested in weaving politics and art history into the DNA of my work.
As a multidisciplinary artist, is there one overarching idea you are trying to express with each medium? How do they all connect?
I definitely think that the cohesive thread between all my work, no matter what medium – sound, photography, illustration, video, writing – is the concepts. I so often return to the idea of parallels and polar forces because I feel like finding balance is something that is constantly relevant to me emotionally and to the world politically. Our technology is advancing and it’s becoming so engrained in how we live our lives, but our environment is deteriorating. How do we keep that balance without sacrificing too much? How do we reach a gender equilibrium? How can I try and keep everyone I love feeling happy without neglecting my own needs? How can I fight between my dark side and my lighter side? Utopias vs. dystopias, realities vs. fantasies . . . and how do we get from point A to point B without losing ourselves on the way? The extremities of these themes are all fitting with the way I live my life, because my friends often joke about my all or nothing behaviour. I can be a hermit for so long, and then when I finally leave the house, I’m gone for days or weeks on end. I forget to eat all day, and then I gorge. I go from periods of extreme and manic productivity into lulls of nothing. If I’m doing something, I have to go the full way, until I’ve had enough of it and I switch. People would argue that’s like having no identity at all, but I would argue that transformation itself is my identity. I mean, Bowie already proved that it can be done, much better than I ever could!
Do you have a favorite medium or one you would like to focus more on?
Photography and music are my favorite mediums. They are almost polar opposites in what ideas they can express, which is why I cannot choose between them. Different parts of myself go into each. And then I find making music videos is a marvellous way to marry the two and strengthen their narratives.
You have a very large creative output and never seem to run out of ideas. Do you ever fear to reach that point? Where do you source your endless inspiration from?
I don’t fabricate ideas for the sake of needing something to apply to my art, but rather I have ideas and so subsequently I fabricate art. As humans, all of our brains are wired to contemplate, think and express things. Art has always been the best way for me to communicate those ideas, so I can’t see why it would stop unless I wanted it to. But I consider any kind of turning an idea from a concept into an action art; and I don’t think a product is always proof of productivity. So there will never be anything to run out of.
Do you feel being a self-taught artist has helped or hindered your career in any way?
It works for me, but I think everyone is different. I feel more focussed when I drive myself to learn things, because that’s just how my attention span is. I also think it allows people to be more experimental and specific with their own voice in their art, even if some level of doing something technically correct is potentially sacrificed. But YouTube tutorials and social media allow everyone to be self-sufficient with technical skill these days because it’s so easy to find the answer for anything. To me, art can’t really be taught though, so I think tech specs are often only necessary when there are other people, clients or audiences involved. If you create for yourself, you don’t really need to know how to do things “right.”
In your photographs, you are often your own subject. What’s the reason behind this?
Often, it feels right for my most personal ideas to be played by myself. Somehow projecting some of those ideas onto someone else would feel like they were dressing up in my own autobiography or something. I also like the immediacy of it, it allows me to experiment more, because I don’t have to wait around for anyone to be available.
As a digital native, you grew up with the Internet and have used technology effectively as an artist. Still, you choose to shoot analogue. How come? What does analogue photography offer that digital doesn’t?
I shoot both digital and analogue, and it really bothers me that people can be so purist about using one over the other. To me they are different mediums, and I use whichever is most suitable to the context of what I am shooting. I love film for its ability to distort the everyday into something much more romantic. Film makes you very aware that you are looking at a moment through a rose tinted lens; so it’s perfect to take a moment out of reality and represent it as another magical world.
Is there one thing about analogue photography you wish you knew when you started?
I wish I had experimented with it sooner! There’s a lot of work I’ve made in the past that would have been more appropriate shot on film. But it’s never too late to experiment!
Eleanor Hardwick has just co-published an art book with her sister Rachel and photographer Chrissie White, “Celestial Bodies”. Read more about the collaborative project in Lomography’s feature, or buy the book here.
To find out more about Eleanor Hardwick, visit her website. All photographs provided by the artist and used with permission.
Click here to read Lomography’s first interview with Eleanor from 2012.